85,000 Kaiser workers prepare to strike over contract talks

More than 85,000 workers from Kaiser Permanente are preparing a national strike after contract negotiations stalled July 12. Talks between the workers and the nonprofit healthcare company ended Thursday without a deal.

The workers involved are in unions that span the nation, including from California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Maryland, Virginia, Hawaii and the District of Columbia. The workers are members of the Coalitions of Kaiser Permanente Unions and have decided to use their collective bargaining in a vote in late July and into August to strike over unfair labor practices.

The workers have also taken issue with several financial decisions of the company. Despite being a nonprofit, Kaiser has not served the public, according to a press release. The previous agreement with the union expired in September 2018.

“While we have been providing care 24/7, holding the hands of sick and frightened patients and making sure they are safe and get the treatment they need, Kaiser has been focused on racking up multi-billion-dollar profits and paying executives exorbitant, million-dollar salaries,” Ida Prophet, an LVN at Kaiser South Sacramento in California, said in a statement. “This is a non-profit company that has lost its way and is acting more like a typical for-profit corporation, where only a few at the top truly thrive.”

The workers are specifically looking to negotiate:

  • Restore a true worker-management partnership.
  • Ensure safe staffing and compassionate use of technology.
  • Build the workforce of the future to deal with major projected shortages of licensed and accredited staff in the coming years.
  • Protect middle-class jobs with wages and benefits that can support families.

They also want Kaiser to submit to basic financial transparency for consumers to make healthcare choices, to enable oversight of Kaiser’s operations from lawmakers and policymakers, and for employees and unions to gain real-time information to negotiate better healthcare rates. That means reporting executive compensation, prices and profits across Kaiser’s hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

“Kaiser is one of the largest healthcare providers and insurers in the nation, but in many places it has gotten exemptions from the kind of reporting requirements that other health-related corporations must follow,” Walter Allen, CKPU executive director, said in a statement. “Their ability to operate in the shadows allows them to avoid the kind of scrutiny consumers, employers, unions and regulators need to protect the public.”

The union workers took issue with executive compensation being too high, including raises above 166% over the last three years for its CEO. It also has $31.5 billion in reserves, but does not serve a high proportion of Medicaid beneficiaries.